African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It was the Best of Rides...

...it was the worst of rides. The trip south to Stoddard the other day was at once exhilarating and terrifying and also one of those rare times when I was riding at Tour speeds and still looking for a higher gear. I'm pretty sure I've never ridden quite so well.

Yet every turn of the crank brought a twinge as I drew ever nearer to the point where I would have to turn around and fight against the wind that was now pushing me to such impressive speeds. And THAT was terrifying.


Now, breaking news. I had other plans for this post about wind, but, as happens from time to time, real life stepped in. In mid-afternoon, we were treated to a variety of warnings. And this time, they really meant it. Severe weather ripped through our neighborhood between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. Power went out at about 3:15 during an unbelievable wind driven torrent of rain that lasted for maybe 5 minutes. After things settled down, we went out to a local restaurant for dinner, only to be met by cars backed up, fire and police vehicles on the move and clean up crews making their way through scores of downed trees and power lines. The nearby K-Mart lost part of its roof and a Pepsi facility was severely damaged. Two schools are being prepared for shelters. All of this within a few blocks of our house.

As reports came in, you could see a very clearly defined path cutting through a three mile section of the south side of La Crosse. There are, so far, no reports of serious injury. Our power is back on now (after about 5 hours) and all of our large trees are still upright. Others nearby were not so lucky.

Windy rides are quite a challenge, to be sure. But this latest display was, shall we say, beyond category.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Presentation Skills

Quite often on the way in from late afternoon rides, I stop at the local Subway for my regular chicken-on-Italian-herb-and-cheese sandwich. On this evening, there was a young girl enjoying dinner with her mom. As I waited for my sandwich to come out of the toaster, the girl glanced at me and said to her mother, "Look. That man has on TIGHTS!" For the record, I was in my shorts, it being warm enough to dispense with cool weather clothing. But, still, you could see where she was coming from. Interestingly, her mother was horrified. She quickly responded by telling her daughter that, no, they weren't tights. They were biking shorts. I'm sure that cleared things up. Then, she looked at me and with every ounce of sincerity she could muster, she said, "I'm sorry. She's only two." You know, as if she thought I was somehow offended. Which I wasn't. I told the young girl that, yes, they were pretty much like tights and were very good for bicycle riding.

It reminded me that if you are going to dress as I do when riding, you need to be pretty comfortable with your masculinity, what with the tights and gaudy jerseys and short socks. There's a fine line…

Today's encounter brought to mind another incident that happened on our Alaskan cruise several years ago. Early one morning I was enjoying coffee on one of the upper decks while making a sketch in my journal. A couple walked by and the wife said to her husband, "See. HE'S keeping a diary." As they went by, I heard him reply, "It's not a diary. It's a ship's log." Yes. That one.

So, it's all in the presentation, you see.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Packing it In

Giveaway Winner! Let's make that TWO Winners! Cindy and Vicki were randomly selected from the commenters to receive a copy of Duane Elmer's book, Cross Cultural Servanthood. If you send me your contact information (jack0063 at aol dot com), I'll send the books on their way!

Getting ready for the trip to Uganda gives me pause to consider the weighty subject of packing. Where and how you go makes a difference of course. Most trips these days include air travel where you have to deal with the airlines' inability to reliably deliver checked bags and the fees they charge just to try. The Darwinian response to the threat to belongings and cash reserves is to commit everything needed for the trip to carry on bags. This is quite a feat for some, as it seems that 47% of all their worldly possessions are going to be needed for the few days they are away from home.

There are a few who buck the trend though and pack light. You know who they are: the ones who get on the plane, go right to their seats and sit down. No wandering around looking for empty overhead bins or blocking the aisle while trying to stuff a bulging rollaboard into a space designed for a light jacket. For example, there was this encounter reported in my February 12, 2009 post: A young lady boarding the flight from Dallas to Chicago, after struggling mightily, and unsuccessfully, to get her bag stuffed into the bin, said, to no one in particular, "This is an odd sized case, it NEVER fits." Really?

It's a simple concept: pack enough. Not too much, just enough. I'll have a chance to practice in just a little over a week as I set out for my fourth visit to Uganda. It's a long way from Kansas. I'd be well advised to not pack like as if I was trying to close the gap.

Packing for Africa, 2010 Style

The "what to take" thing is pretty well taken care of. But the secret is in knowing what to leave behind. It is natural to think that if our motives are right, then whatever we do will be OK. And to think that any solution we see to a problem will be seen in exactly the same light by those with whom you are with. You'd be surprised at how far from the truth this ideas are. And these are the things that are best not packed.

Duane Elmer has written an excellent book entitled Cross-Cultural Servanthood. I would recommend it to anyone considering undertaking a work of service. It does specifically address interaction with other cultures, but in my opinion, there are principles that work in just about any situation. I'm tempted to go on about the lessons in his book. But let me say that if this is a topic that interests you, it is well worth getting the book and reading it yourself. Look for the story of the monkey and the fish. And pay attention to the phases of learning he talks about. Learning about. Learning with. Learning from.

We've more or less been through the first and second phases. It's that last one that's harder to get to. And more difficult to pack for.

OK. About that giveaway: I will select at random from comments left before noon on Monday, May 16 someone to get a copy of Duane Elmer's book. So, comment away...